28 January 2014

Why T.M. Lewin shirts soon became a favourite

I recently bought some shirts from from T.M. Lewin and I was positively surprised. I had never bought shirts from T.M Lewin before and I wasn't expecting anything special, just nice shirts and good quality. This was also what I got, but the shirts had a couple of details which sets them apart from many other shirts I've bought through the years.
The cuffs are the main reason I like these shirts so much. I usually buy shirts with french cuffs (double cuffs) and, no matter what brand, I always seem to have the same problem: the cuffs are too big. When the cuffs are too large they get stuck in the jacket sleeves or, at least don't have the room to move as freely as they should. For the first time with an off-the-rack shirt, the cuffs are of a proportion I'm happy with. There are two things which make the T.M. Lewin cuffs more to my liking, they are shorter and tighter. Compared to other shirts I have, the cuffs are about 1 cm shorter, and the cuffs are a much better fit around the wrist.
T.M. Lewin offers five different fits: Casual fit, regular fit, slim fit, fully fitted and super fitted. What fit you should get is a matter of taste and body proportions, but the shirts I bought were of the fully fitted type and they fit me very well. I don't know if the cuffs differ significantly between the the different fits, but I suspects the smaller cuff sizes are a general pattern compared to many other off-the-rack shirts.
The only thing I think could be better are the collar stiffeners. As I wrote in an earlier post I was very pleased with the brass collar stiffeners included with the Tyrwhitt shirts, and if metal collar stiffeners were included with the T.M. Lewin shirts, it would be a great improvement on a very good shirt. This isn't a big problem however, as collar stiffeners can be bought separately for a very reasonable price. The collar stiffeners are available in metal, silver and mother of pearl.
Below are three of the shirts I bought.
London fully fitted red stripe satin shirt
Photo taken from the T.M. Lewin website

London fully fitted blue pin-collar shirt
Photo taken from the T.M. Lewin website

Slim fit lilac navy check poplin shirt
Photo taken from the T.M. Lewin website

T.M. Lewin metal collar stiffeners
Photo taken from the T.M. Lewin website

24 January 2014

From cloth to suit (part 3): Specifcations for the suit

The suit I've been discussing in two previous posts (part 1, part 2) is currently in the hands of the Cad & the Dandy tailors. There is still some weeks until the suit is finished but I thought I could use this post to tell about the ordering/design process at Cad & the Dandy and also talk about the specifications for my new suit.
Although the Cad & the Dandy has everything available on their website for you to specify all the details you like for your new suite, they differ from many of the online services in the way that they will not let you take all measurements yourself before you place your first order. You will have to make an appointment at one of their three locations in London or in New York. You can read about my first appointment with Cad & the Dandy in this previous post. When your measurements have been taken and tweaked they will be saved and you can access this information through your account on their website. When you have had your account set up you can order online. If you later want to make minor changes to your measurements, this can be done from home and saved to your account.

The design system on the website is very easy to follow and gives you plenty of options for the design of your new garment. This is very useful for everybody living too far away from London or New York to actually visit them whenever wanting something made. The first part of the design process is to decide what you want to have made: a suit, shirt or an overcoat. If you choose a suit, you can choose between a three piece or two piece, just a jacket, trousers or waistcoat, or a dinner jacket or a morning suit. The next step is to decide what fabric you want and what lining you'd like. The selection of fabrics and linings on the website is big enough to allow for most tastes, but if you visit them and look through their fabric swatch books you will literally have thousands to choose from. You can also buy your own fabric, which I did for the suit this blog series is about and I wrote about here. I have ordered a lining for the suit in a plum colour, corresponding to the pink/purple checks on the fabric. For the back of the waistcoat, however, I have ordered a dark navy lining. The reason for choosing a different colour for the back of the waistcoat was that I wanted a more discreet colour in case I should happen to drop the jacket at one point.  

Your initial options in the online design process.
Screen shot from the C&tD website.

You can chose between a relatively large number of fabrics online.
Screen shot from the C&tD website.

Having decided what you want to have made and from what fabric, it's time to decide on the specifications for the jacket, trousers, waistcoat or whatever it is you are ordering. To give an idea of what options you have I will take you through the specifications for my new suit and what I usually choose. The first thing to decide is if you want the jacket to be double or single breasted. I always chose single breasted jackets for the simple reason that it will make the suit more versatile and it is less likely that the suit will be unfashionable in a few years. The next choice you have to make is probably the most important one, the cut of the jacket. Your choice will largely depend on your body shape. I always go for the tailored cut which is narrower at the waist and gives a more slender look. It basically looks more like a suit that's been tailored for you and I would definitely recommend that option if you think your body shape allows for it. You don't have to be skinny to look good in a tailored cut, but I guess there is a point where one should consider a normal or even a loose cut. In the years before I bought my first C&tD suit I probably would have had to go for a normal cut, but rather than buying a suit at that point I took action and lost a fair bit of weight to get back to a shape I was more happy with and one which could better carry a tailored cut suit. 
Now that you have decided on the basic look for the suit, it's time to decide on the important details which you should largely choose based on your own taste. This is were you can really personalise your suit. How do you want your lapel, notched or peaked? Do you want a button hole? I have usually chosen a notched lapel, basically because it's the safest option, but I'm sure I'll try the peaked lapel in not too long. I also always go for a button hole on the lapel. Next is the buttons on the jacket and sleeves. Unless you are very tall, you can basically go for whatever option you want. Very tall people should possibly try to avoid a three buttoned jacket. I usually go for two buttons but I also like three buttons. I am less comfortable with the single button jacket. Regarding the number of sleeve buttons, I must admit I haven't given it much thought but I always choose four buttons. I also like the buttons to be separated because I don't really like kissing buttons. Next up are the pockets, and in my opinion, this is one of the more important choices regarding the jacket. The pockets define the jacket. If you want a very clean, modern look, you could opt for two pockets without pocket flaps. That's not an option for me though, I like the pocket flaps and the ticket pocket is a must. I also prefer the cut away pockets to the straight. The last thing you have to decide is if you want none, single or double vents. I always choose double vents. 

The disign options for the jacket.
Screen shot from the C&tD website.

Having finished the jacket, it's time to start with the trousers. I usually get two pairs of trousers for the simple reason that the trousers wear much quicker than the jacket, and with two trousers the suit will last very much longer. Also, if you choose different designs for the two trousers, you'll get two different suits when switching the trousers. For my new suit I have ordered one slightly modern looking pair and one with a more classic design. For the cleaner look I decided on no turn-ups, no back pockets, no pleats, and belt loops. For the classic looking trousers I went for turn-ups, single pleats and one back pocket. I also decided to drop the belt loops for the first time and instead go for the buckle side adjusters. For both pairs I have chosen not to add brace buttons as I never wear braces, both pairs also have the standard slanted side pockets and I always prefer the buttoned fly to the zip. If I would only get one pair of trousers, I would definitely choose the classic looking pair. 

The disign options for the trousers.
Screen shot from the C&tD website.

This time I have also ordered a waistcoat. For me, the waistcoat is not a must but I think it gives a suit the little extra when that is desired. My new waistcoat will be single breasted without a lapel. It will have two pockets, five buttons and a pointed bottom. Quite a clean looking waistcoat.

The disign options for the waistcoat.
Screen shot from the C&tD website.

The other posts in this series: part 1part 2part 4

6 January 2014

Back to more traditional shaving

About two weeks ago I wanted to buy blades for my razor but, as often before, the specific type of blade I was after had gone out of production and the option was to buy a new razor or go home empty handed. This way of forcing the consumers to constantly buy new razors is something I'm sick of. I have five or six old razors lying in the bathroom cabinet for which the corresponding blades have gone out of production (why I haven't thrown them away I'm not sure). I am pretty sure the different companies producing razors could keep developing new razors and blades but still keep the same fastening mechanism. This would give the consumer a real choice. Instead the fastening mechanism change with each new release, forcing the new product on the consumer. This time I'd had enough and I went home without new razor blades or a new razor. I had decided it was time to revert to more traditional ways of shaving.

I had two options, should I go for a straight razor or a safety razor? For romantic reasons I wanted to buy a straight razor. There is something appealing about shaving with a sharp blade as men have done for thousands of years. However, I had no experience with either and needed to do a bit of research to decide what would be best for me. Not surprisingly, what I found was that shaving with a straight razor requires more time, effort and practise than using a safety razor. I basically new this before I started looking into this, but what I didn't know was how much the difference was. I would suggest that shaving with a straight razor takes about twice as long as with a safety razor, when you have mastered the techniques. Learning how to use a straight razor also take significantly longer than learning to use a safety razor. If I had the time to spare I would have bought a straight razor but as the situation is, with kids, work and the daily routine, the decision fell on the safety razor. 
On the last day of the year I went out and visited a local barber shop and bought what I needed to start my new shaving regime: a safety razor, a lathering bowl and shaving cream (I already had a shaving brush). The razor I went for was the Parker 99R which has a nice weight and the very convenient butterfly opening which makes changing blades very easy. I also got a dark mango lathering bowl from Parker and the Taylor of old Bond street sandalwood shaving cream. I am no good at describing smells, but this sandalwood shaving cream smells the way I feel it should. It has a traditional, possibly old fashioned, smell which I love. 
I've been using my new shaving equipment for a week now and shaving has become much more enjoyable. I love the new routine, there is something satisfying about this kind of shaving. Firstly preparing the face for the shave by washing it with a towel wet with hot water or alternatively shaving straight after a shower. Secondly, putting a bit of shaving cream in the bowl to foam it up with the brush before applying to the face. The feeling of the soft brush across the face is very pleasant. Lastly, the careful shaving with the safety razor. Learning to use the safety razor was very easy but I'm still slightly careful as you cut yourself somewhat easier than with a modern razor.
I might move on to a straight razor at some other time but, at the moment, shaving with the old fashioned safety razor works perfectly for me and is something I would recommend any gentleman to try.

Shaving brush, Parker lathering bowl in dark mango, and Taylor of Old
Bond street sandalwood shaving cream.

The Parker 99R safety razor.

The butterfly opening mechanism makes
changing blades very easy.

Foaming the the shaving cream in the lathering bowl.

3 January 2014

Happy new year! Time to sum up, and look forward.

Firstly I would like to wish all readers a happy new year. It will hopefully treat you well and live up to all your expectations.

We are three days into the new year and I think it's time to take a look at the year that's behind us and also think about the expectations for the coming year, all, of course, from a gentlemanly/sartorial point of view.

For me, I think it's been quite a good year where things have generally moved in the right direction. I have tried to tighten my style and make it more consistent, something I've basically done by making certain accessories permanent features of my attire. Previously I've been an occasional tie wearer. Although, I've long been wanting to wear ties regularly, because hardly anyone in my work or home environment wear ties, I've kept it for certain occasions. This has now changed! Putting on a tie has become part of my daily morning routine and it feels good. Even if few others wear ties, I can't let that affect me anymore, I might as well take the lead and possibly someone will follow. Cuff links have also become regular as I've gradually changed my shirt collection to mostly containing shirts with french cuffs.

Have you made any changes which have improved your style?

I have also made a few purchases which I'm particularly pleased with. Here are my two favourites:

1. Aquascutum, double breasted Corby, navy trench coat
This trench coat is probably the purchase I'm most pleased with. It's design is classic and very stylish but it's also highly practical and, with regard to raincoats, I don't think I could find a better garment. Here are some of the details of this coat which will protect you from the elements. Firstly, when you button the double breasting all the way up, the storm flap on the shoulder should button over the top of the breast panel to prevent rain getting into to the top and side of the double breasting. There is also a detachable rain guard for the neck area. In particularly bad weather the collar can be closed by a hook and eye system which again can be covered by the rain guard. This will prevent rain getting under the collar area of the coat. The belted cuffs can also be tightened to further protect you from the storm and rain. Another great feature are the pockets. The pockets themselves are nice and roomy but the special feature is that right behind the pockets there is a slit through which you can reach your trousers and jacket pockets without having to open or lift up the coat and exposing your clothes to the rain. There is also a large convenient inside pocket just underneath the right outside pocket.
Aquascutum, traditional English quality

Posing for the photo in front of the Christmas tree.

The double breasted Corby model has a hook and eye closing mechanism
in the neck with the possibility of attaching the collar rain guard. Also
notice the storm flap on the right shoulder.

The coat sleeves can be tightened for extra protection.

The collar rain guard is fastened inside the coat when
not in use.

The slit into the coat through the pocket with the large
inside pocket underneath.

The Corby and other trench coats from Aquascutum are currently available at highly reduced prices. Take advantage of the January sales and get yourself a rain coat which will last you a lifetime.

2. Cordings, Harris tweed jacket
My second favourite of last years purchases is this Harris tweed jacket from Cordings. I find this jacket the perfect choice for slightly chilly days and I also think it looks really good. You can't really argue with a good tweed jacket.

Harris tweed jacket from Cordings.

I like the bronze lining with the horse and rider

Brook Taverner have some great Harris tweed jackets available at very reasonable prices. Have a look at the different colours and patterns to find your favourite.

Have you made purchases last year which your are particularly happy with?
With regard to the new year I don't really have any new year's resolutions, but I will try to continue to improve my style and be less held back by the sartorially indifferent. This is really something I think any gentleman should do as I firmly believe it will improve the general quality of life.
Good luck with all your new year's resolutions, whatever they may be, and all the best for the coming year!